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"God said, “Let the earth bring forth vegetation, seed-bearing plants and fruit trees, each bearing fruit with seed according to its kind.” And it was so. 12The earth produced vegetation: seed-bearing plants according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. “Genesis 1:11, Holy Bible


The classic or historical vision of paradise involves an idyllic setting with abundant water, trees or tropical plants, a garden of Eden. Like the mythological narratives of the creation, the flood and the Tower of Babel, the story of Eden echoes the Mesopotamian myth of a king, like a primordial man, who is placed in a divine garden to guard the Tree of Life.

This would probably be the Lanscape of the Svalbard archipelago some 380 million years ago, when it was located close to Ecuador and not in the northern location it occupies today. The lush vegetation included several types of trees and water courses, creating a bucolic landscape, full of animal, vegetable and mineral life.


Some trees have fossilized. The organic remains were quickly enveloped in a protective material that preserved them from contact with the atmosphere, sea water and the action of decomposers, so they fossilized.


The plants had another destination, the buried remains of tropical and subtropical plants, formed layers of sediments. The rise in sea level or the lowering of the land caused it to sink under marine sediments, the weight of which compressed the peat, transforming it, under high temperatures, into coal.


And in this slow way the islands moved north, away from the equator, from the heat, the trees and the image of Eden.

Pyramiden, which means "the pyramid", was a coal mine, originally founded by Sweden in 1910, and sold to the Soviet Union in 1927, under an agreement between Russia and the coal mining community.

The mine's facilities are at the foot of Mount Billefjorden, on the island of Spitsbergen, which is shaped like a pyramid. Pyramiden's start was very tenuous, with almost no residents. But after World War II, investments grew: it was a place that could be visited without a visa and the intention was to represent the perfect Soviet society, a living picture of the virtues of the communist regime.

The houses were of the highest Soviet standard, with a large library, the best heated pool in the archipelago, a gym, a bar and the most northerly grand piano in the world, among other things.

The city was almost self-sufficient thanks to the land imported from what is now Ukraine, used to grow vegetables in greenhouses. He also had pigs, cattle and chickens. Electricity was also local thanks to the coal extracted, an activity that was never very profitable, assuming that interest in the city would be much more political than economic.

The pyramid-shaped mountain hides behind the low clouds that abound in the Svalbard landscape. We know it is there, but we rarely see it, we can rarely photograph it. The mountain is the reason for the creation of the city, a perfect Polis, an example of a classless society. Would the city then be a communist paradise?

How can we categorize it as paradise, in a society in which religion was “the opium of the people”, in which new cities were not designed with religious temples, as in Pyramiden, where the word bible could not be pronounced. The only statue in the city is that of Lenin, at the top of the main square, the most northern statue of Vladimir Lenin on the planet. It was not overthrown with the end of the USSR, it remained there to watch over the city and its inhabitants.

Religion only arrived in Pyramiden with two important moments for the city, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the consequent desegregation of the USSR and the fall of flight 2801 of Vnukovo Airlines in August 1996, which killed 141 people, of which 130 were inhabitants of Pyramiden . The fall of the Soviet regime allowed for tolerance of religious practice, which had probably existed in secret, but did not motivate anger or break with the authoritarian past of the communist regime. The symbology and iconography have remained intact, unlike other territories and spaces in the former USSR.


Why was there no removal of the symbols of the communist past?


The air accident marked that Pyramiden community significantly, since 1990, which witnessed a slow death from mining in the city and the accident, as a tragic moment, worked as a death certificate for the city.


Today, when we reach Pyramiden, we see a deserted, but not abandoned, city. The buildings persist, scarce remnants of imported grass, the Soviet symbolism is intact, the houses, the library, the cultural center, all remained as if they seemed to be ready for the return of their inhabitants.

The essential question: was Pyramiden a paradise for those who lived there for 2 to 3 years and people were happy?


What is the notion of happiness for these people? Did they feel the city as their own or just a crossing point? Even today, the few people who take care of the city are all passing through.


Happy are those who don't care about anything or who live smoothly. Perhaps the predictability of everyday life was a source of happiness there, albeit artificial because it was only temporary?


There will always be two views on Pyramiden, that of utopia and reality. Which one do we prefer to see, which one do we want to be true?

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